Don’t worry, only ant bite’, the dentist kept reassuring me.
I started whimpering. Owww. Owww. Eeee. She had not even removed the syringe from its pack yet. And, when she did poke, it was not that painful. Quite like an ant-bite. I learnt that the anticipation of pain is worse than the pain itself.
In a regular ant-bite, we don’t really take an appointment with the ant-hill the previous day, lose sleep over it, bathe and dress, all woefully, on the appointed day. We don’t willingly drive to the ant-hill, close our eyes in fear and wait for the ant to sharpen its mandibles and arrive. With an assistant that keeps telling us, ‘don’t worry, only ant bite.’
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if the run-up to unpleasant events is absent? Till sometime back I had aviophobia — the fear of flying. It is something that happened to me, pretty much without any known reason. When I was younger, I would enjoy flights. I would even dress up for flights. Like enhanced beauty would earn me more miles. Then, one fine day, I was severely phobic! Just booking a ticket made me tremble. Packing the suitcase would be done with a pounding heart. The shower before leaving for the airport would feel like the last one with tearful farewells to the face in the mirror. The drive to the airport would crank things up a few notches — my heart would have sunk to my ankles, my brain would have become curd rice and my breaths shorter than Alia Bhatt.
By the time I got my boarding pass, and passed security check, I would be delirious like a stray dog being trapped by cable-wire graspers and being dragged to the van. When seated, awaiting taxi and take-off, I was a wreck. Friends who have travelled with me, and ended up with arm-and-shoulder wounds, will vouch for that. I would look around, fearfully, for signs of everything being okay. I deeply distrusted pilots who did not speak (‘Is he dead? Why isn’t he making any announcements?’) or pilots who spoke too much (‘Why isn’t she concentrating on flying the damn plane?’).
Once, my then three-year old had not helped things much when, on reaching cruising altitude, made a deadpan announcement, ‘Mamma, the engines have stopped. We are not moving.’ I must have chewed the head-rest off the seat in front of me in alarm, even as his father explained that once we cannot see the ground, it only feels like we are stationary. Now, once the plane was cruising, I would be fine. During landing, I would be far from scared. On the contrary, happy and upbeat! So, why was I fretting the entire week before actual take-off? It beats me.
My aviophobia disappeared as suddenly and as inexplicably as it has come. One fine day, I was fine boarding a plane, enjoying in-flight entertainment and bad airline food. I am proud to share that, recently, I had a mature conversation on turbulence with a steward, somewhere over Vienna. I don’t think he followed it much though, and said something, quite sternly, in German that could have meant, ‘Shut up and sit down’ or ‘Would you like a Frankfurter?’
(Best-selling author Rachna Singh is a sit down comedienne)